Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) have recently become ubiquitous in the mass media and in trade publications, due to a variety of factors that include: international controversy over their military use by the United States against targets in Pakistan; domestic concerns about potential privacy violations; the development of ever cheaper and more capable systems; congressional passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which mandated that the Federal Aviation Administration integrate UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) by the end of September 2015; and a statement on television in December 2013 by Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos that his company is testing the use of UAS for package deliveries.
The future use of UAS for agriculture has featured prominently in this coverage because they have great potential to gather valuable data while privacy and safety concerns are minimal over farm land. According to a 2013 report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), the agriculture sector is expected to be the largest market for UAS technology, accounting for 80 percent of all commercial use. Farmers who read about UAS in agriculture publications or see them demonstrated at agriculture trade shows wonder how these devices could be useful to them and when they will be able to use one. Ongoing research and tests can already provide answers to the former question, while the answer to the latter depends on parallel developments in law and technology.